International Church Appeal to Canada: Reverse NATO’s Nuclear Weapons Policy

Tasneem Jamal

Letter to Prime Minister Chrétien from The Canadian Council of Churches.

Ploughshares, with The Canadian Council of Churches, is currently engaged in a special initiative with church agencies in other NATO countries to promote policies and declarations by church leaders which are similar to the nuclear weapons declaration made by Canadian church leaders last year.

The following letter has been sent to Prime Minister Chrétien by the Canadian Council of Churches/Conseil canadien des Églises as a combined effort with the Conference of European Churches and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA. The Conference of European Churches has also sent this joint letter to European NATO heads of state and the US National Council has sent one to the White House. In addition, the three councils have addressed a letter to the Secretary General of NATO and have asked their member churches to mount similar denominational campaigns.

To broaden this international church appeal for the elimination of nuclear weapons, the World Council of Churches has sent a similar letter to the heads of state of all non-NATO nuclear weapons states (India, Pakistan, China, Russia).  The WCC has also written to the National Council of Churches in Pakistan, the National Council of Churches in India, the Hong Kong Christian Council and the Russian Orthodox Church, encouraging them to take appropriate steps in their countries to support the appeal.

Canadian Council of Churches

(français)

April 12, 1999

Right Hon. Jean Chrétien,
Prime Minister of Canada,
House of Commons,
Ottawa K1A 0A6

cc: The Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs

Dear Prime Minister Chrétien,

This letter comes to you as a joint initiative of the Conference of European Churches, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and the Canadian Council of Churches/Conseil canadien des Églises.

We write to encourage your government and the NATO alliance as a whole to take advantage of the current review of NATO’s Strategic Concept document to reverse NATO’s present assertion that nuclear weapons “fulfill an essential role”, and to reject the assertion that the strategic nuclear forces of the alliance are the “supreme guarantee of the security of the allies” (NATO Strategic Concept approved November 1991).

A revised Strategic Concept document must commit NATO members to the early elimination of nuclear weapons, in accordance with obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Also in the light of this Treaty, NATO must take immediate steps to reduce the risk posed by current nuclear weapons, and to minimize the political value accorded to them.

Contrary to NATO’s current strategic concept, nuclear weapons do not, cannot guarantee security. They deliver only insecurity and peril through their promise to annihilate life itself and to ravage the global ecosystem upon which all life depends.

Nuclear weapons have no moral legitimacy. Their military utility is ambiguous. In light of the 1996 advisory opinion of the World Court, even their legality under international law is in serious question. The World Court, when consulted, expressed the view that all states are legally obligated “to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects.”

We therefore call on the governments of all NATO members to ensure that the new NATO Strategic Concept:

  • affirms NATO’s support for the rapid global elimination of nuclear weapons and commits the Alliance to take programmatic action to advance this goal;
  • commits NATO to reducing the alert status of nuclear weapons possessed by NATO members, and to pursuing effective arrangements for the rapid de-alerting of all nuclear weapons possessed by all states; and
  • renounces the first-use of nuclear weapons by any NATO members under any circumstances, and commits NATO to the pursuit of equivalent commitments from other states possessing nuclear weapons.

Please be assured of our prayers and support as you undertake to fulfill your important responsibilities.

Sincerely,

Janet Somerville, General Secretary
Canadian Council of Churches,
2nd floor, 3250 Bloor Street W.,
Toronto, ON M8X 2Y4

On behalf of:

Joan Brown Campbell, General Secretary,
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA,
475 Riverside Drive, Room 880,
New York, NY, 10115-0050
USA

And:

Keith Clements, General Secretary,
Conference of European Churches,
P.O. Box 2100, 150 route de Ferney CH,
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

 

le 13 avril 1999

Très honorable Jean Chrétien
Premier ministre du Canada
Chambre des Communes
Ottawa K1A 0A6

c.c. Hon. Lloyd Axworthy, ministre des Affaires étrangères

Monsieur le Premier ministre,

La présente lettre est une initiative conjointe de la Conference of European Churches, du National
Council of Churches of Christ in the USA et du Canadian Council of Churches/Conseil canadien des Églises.

Nous invitons votre gouvernement, de même que l’ensemble de l’OTAN, à profiter de la révision en cours du Concept stratégique de l’OTAN pour renverser l’affirmation de cette dernière, voulant que les armes nucléaires «jouent un rôle essentiel» et de rejeter l’assertion selon laquelle les forces
nucléaires stratégiques de l’alliance constituent la «garantie suprême de la sécurité des alliés»
(Concept stratégique de l’OTAN, approuvé en novembre 1991).

Dans sa version révisée, le Concept stratégique se doit d’engager les membres de l’OTAN à
éliminer au plus tôt les armes nucléaires et à réduire au maximum la valeur politique qu’on leur
attribue.

Contrairement à ce qu’affirme le Concept stratégique actuel de l’OTAN, les armes nucléaires ne
garantissent pas la sécurité et ne peuvent le faire. Tout ce qu’elles entraînent, c’est le danger et
l’insécurité, car elles risquent d’annihiler toute forme vie et de dévaster l’ensemble de l’écosystème
dont toute vie dépend.

Les armes nucléaires ne détiennent aucune légitimité morale, sans compter que leur utilité militaire
demeure ambiguë. Selon l’avis consultatif de la Cour internationale de Justice, même leur légalité en
vertu du droit international est sérieusement mise en doute. La Cour internationale de Justice, dont
on a sollicité l’avis, affirmait qu’«il existe une obligation de poursuivre de bonne foi et de mener à
terme des négociations conduisant au désarmement nucléaire dans tous ses aspects.»

Nous pressons donc tous les gouvernements des États membres de l’OTAN de faire en sorte que le nouveau Concept stratégique de l’OTAN :

* affirme l’appui de l’OTAN à l’élimination immédiate, de tout armement nucléaire et engage
l’Alliance à prendre systématiquement des mesures en vue de la réalisation de cet objectif;

* engage l’OTAN à réduire la cote d’alerte des armes nucléaires en la possession de ses États
membres et à conclure des ententes efficaces ayant pour objectif l’élimination de la cote
d’alerte des armes nucléaires dont disposent tous les États;

* renonce à l’emploi en premier d’armes nucléaires par les membres de l’OTAN, en toutes
circonstances, et engage l’OTAN à faire tout en son possible pour obtenir des engagements
similaires de la part des autres États possesseurs d’armes nucléaires.

Soyez assuré, Monsieur le Premier ministre, de nos prières et de notre appui en ces moments où vos responsabilités sont plus lourdes que jamais.

Janet Somerville, secrétaire générale
Conseil canadien des Églises
2nd floor, 3250 Bloor Street W.
Toronto (Ontario) M8X 2Y4

Au nom de: Joan Brown Campbell, secrétaire générale
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA
475 Riverside Drive, Room 880
New York, NY, 10115-0050, USA

Et de: Keith Clements, secrétaire général
Conference of European Churches
BR> 1211 Genève 2, Suisse

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